Monthly Archives: August 2010

1970 Kiki Project: Just Where Do We Stand??!…

Happy Beautiful-August-Day! Sadly, the LAST August day of 2010!

As usual, the summer has flown by.

I always say that time from Victoria Day to Labour Day passes in the blink of an eye. Labour Day = the TRUE New Year’s Day feeling for me…but we’ll talk about that next week!

It’s not quite the 2/3 mark of the 1970 Kiki Project, but we’re going to look at the facts n figures today. What’s left to do in the four-months-plus-a-few-days that remain in the Kiki Calendar Year (which ends January 9th, 2011)?…

40 Cereals – goal achieved wayyyy back in the spring, as you’ll remember. Right now, my favourite cereal is hot oatmeal, if you can believe it! I KNNNOOOWWW!!! It’s 30+ degrees out, and I’m savouring oatmeal with runny peanut butter on the top – so goooood!

40 Recipes – Thanks to a fit of domesticity last eve, I have made 24 recipes so far. That’s 60% of the recipes needed. I’m not concerned about how and when to make 16 more; it would be hard to make only 16 recipes during the Christmas season alone! Just as a reminder, remember that there will be NO repeats of recipes. I DO plan on including a baklava (solely because I adore that word) and at least one more “something” that falls into the fiddly category: maybe ice cream sandwhich cookies or whoopie pies. And I’ll need to try a pie as I still have a crust mix in the cupboard from the tarts attempt! (see Recipe #17).

40 Reads – This tally stands at 33. My hope is to finish off the last seven by reading books only. I have 30 pages left of my current read, so check back later this week when I should have it finished – and it’s been an enjoyable one! Since January, I have evolved from spending time reading magazines and newspapers in hard copy to doing more online reading: blogs, newspapers, magazine websites…plus the K-W Record is at its absolute worst during the summer months, every year. We’ll see how my tastes change as we enter the fall season…also, I’ve already started a list of novels for my Christmas list! And I still have a sizable stack beside my bed that I can’t wait to plunge into. Again, time is my limiting factor!

40 Movies – Thanks to watching seven movies in the month of June, then seven more in July and August combined, this KikiCategory is no longer a sweat-inducing concern. Our grand total as of today is 26 viewed movies. Granted, my pace has slowed, but fourteen more should be very achieveable. I should add that during July and August, we did watch all of Season One of the DVD “Rescue Me” (thanks for the loan, Sarah!) Now we can’t WAIT to watch the remaining seasons! Then there’s also Seasons Two and Three of “Damages,” and I have several episodes of “Mad Men” on PVR to get to…I actually debated including a season of a TV show as a movie equivalent but ultimately decided that would be cheating! Movies is movies is NOT TV Seasons!

SIDENOTE: Have to add in that I LOVE BLOGGING!!! Starting this project and documenting it on the KikiBlog has been so enjoyable. What a great new hobby. Wish I had more time to fiddle with the blog site and learn more, but it’s come together so far in bits and pieces. Coming up, I want to explore Windows Live Writer, streamline my method of posting photos, and just keep on writing!

Thanks for reading!

Buyer Be-Aware Monday: I WANT THIS JOB!!!!

We have SIL Ana to thank for inspiring today’s Buyer Be-Aware post!

the non-corporate side to SIL ana!

When I heard about SIL Ana’s recent shopping experience, I thought: a) I can’t wait to try this myself, b) it’s a fabulous concept c) more people need to know about this awesome opportunity!

SIL Ana has been at home on mat leave for the past year and will be returning to the workforce after Labour Day. In her career, Ana wears a number of different hats, and juggles everything from on-site industrial visits to meetings with high-profile clients to office time with the bosses. As such, her wardrobe needs to be professional yet comfortable. After a year away from the corporate scene, Ana was ready for some new mix-n-match clothing items. But who has time to search high and low, hither and yon, when you have two kidlets and just need the clothes, already!

Yorkdale Mall, one of Toronto’s finest shopping destinations, to the rescue! Guess what they offer: A PERSONAL SHOPPING EXPERIENCE also known as their Wardrobe Planning Service. Yes! Basically for free, you can enlist the services of a professional fashionista to guide you in your shopping quest.

How does it work? You book an appointment online here by filling out the registration form and answering a couple of questions. You can get more information about the service here in the FAQ section. It’s all fine and dandy to read the details online, but it’s always better to get a personal review. With Ana’s permission, I share with you her experience…

As noted on the website, there is a $25 fee to book your two hour appointment. When you arrive at the appointment, you receive a $25 Yorkdale Mall Gift Card, so to me, that’s a free appointment (you’re not going to go to the trouble of setting up a consultation if you don’t have a serious purchase in mind, right?).

Ana was matched with Jean Flemming. Ana was really impressed with her professionalism, helpfulness and knowledge. She looked familiar to Ana…over the course of their conversation, Ana learned Jean has appeared on Cityline! (Wow! That alone scores majah points with me!).

Jean and Ana discussed what exactly Ana was looking for, what styles she likes, colour preferences, favourite stores, then it was time to power shop! They started at Banana Republic , one of Ana’s preferred stores, and it sounds like Ana had a blast: Ana was a whirlwind outfit-changer while Jean ran around and did all the dirty work of finding styles and sizes and giving the thumbs up or down as Ana changed ensembles.

Ana had a lot of luck at Banana Republic but still wanted another pair of pants, so Jean on they went to RW & Co. Success again!

Although the appointment is set for a two hour block (and you could request a four hour block, if need be), Ana and Jean finished up their shopping in about an hour – Ana had all the items she needed and had also reached her budget limit! (as good a reason to stop as any!). While the purpose of the outing was to find new clothing items, Jean was also helpful with accessory suggestions and footwear tips. To Ana’s disappointment, Jean gave the thumbs down to the purse that Ana had purchased in Finland this summer and had been hoping to use once back at work. Good to get a second opinion!

I was lucky enough to be at the house when Ana got home from her Personal Shopping Experience, and thus witnessed her enthusiasm for Jean’s help firsthand. It’s truly amazing what they accomplished in a one-hour blitz.

This is such a great marketing idea: a positive shopping experience for the customer who has time constraints or who has questions on a fashion choice, and positive exposure for the mall, with guaranteed sales for the stores within the mall. How completely beneficial would this appointment be for a) someone who does not particularly like shopping b) someone searching for an item for a specific occasion (wedding, gala, corporate job) c) someone needing professional guidance on fit and style but who can’t spend an arm and a leg paying a third-party professional consultant on their own.

Also to note, and thanks for the info, Ana: Cadillac Fairview malls offer this service BUT the price varies: for example, Sherway Gardens charges $150, and Square One  does not have the service available for the summer (sorry, but I couldn’t find online links for more information on these locations).

I TOTALLY could have used this type of help a few years back when searching for a dress for The Bro and SIL Ana’s wedding. Poor, patient, saintly BFF Debbie spent 8 hours at Sherway Gardens with me as we walked our feet off, visiting every available store for a dress…only to walk out empty-handed (I ended up knitting my dress so it worked out in the end, but the shopping trip itself was a rather Sorely Trying Day and not the best for self-esteem as I tried on so many disappointments!).

Now my final question is this: can I please have Jean’s job?!

Buskers in Pictures

This weekend is the annual Buskers Festival in Uptown Waterloo.

welcome!

As long as the weather is favourable, we love to attend every year. And this weekend rocks in the weather department! We’re blessed with sun, heat and bright skies for the last weekend of August (big boo hoo on that).

great weather = huge crowds. good to see!

Buskers combines street performers with a midway-type atmosphere. The mid-way was bigger and better this year:

fair-type grub...

look, little e!!! ice cream cone truck!!

sidewalk chalk artist - reminds me of "mary poppins!"

rides galore!

beginner mini-golf! love the pig in the back, there...

We took a tour down “the strip.” A couple of shows were in progress:

his act? balancing a unicycle on his face...

...and riding...

 He really wasn’t that entertaining so we tried this one:

this guy is standing a high pole...

juggling...

....and different "utensils!"

Unfortunately, this guy was rather boring…I like performers who are HYPER and SUPER-CHATTY and this guy was just rather quiet. We stayed a few minutes then moved on…to…wait for it…man, was I excited!…

is this not the best game ever invented!?

I had to play.

gettin' my game face on!

focus...

did i mention i love this game?! laughing so hard, i could hardly whack!

Sadly, I was not victorious. :(

I am blaming THIS…

the guy MADE me take this whack-a-mole spot - how can i get a "leg up" on the competition like this?!

So I had to play again. This time I finessed my technique (wait then whack instead of madly flailing at all five mole holes) and got more points…

come on, you little critters!!

whop!

Guess what?! Lost again! To that girl behind me. I don’t care about getting the stuffed animal (although Little E and Baby C would have been the beneficiaries, I just like to W-I-N!!!).

Back up the street to…

another balancing act...

This guy (“Bike Boy” from Somerset England, according to the program guide) had a british-cockney accent and was pretty low-key with the joke attempts…

yup, swallowing a balloon...

balancing + bicycle + juggling = ...boring?!

Yea, sorry, but this guy just didn’t do it for us…the pace of his act seemed glacial.

SIDE NOTE: Despite the large crowds, I thought everyone seemed more…disengaged than in previous years. Perhaps because the acts were of lesser quality than we have seen previous years? I admit to being disappointed with the acts and performers we caught. Is the fact that there are Buskers this weekend in Toronto having an impact? (Although, apparently, Waterloo crowds are more financially generous…).

However, we did end our Buskers Tour with Fire Guy (below) and I give him credit for a good show: he was funny and talented and could make jokes spur of the moment, as opportunity arose, just as a good busker should.

a real show-man...

flaming devil sticks...

yes, he has the balloon in his nose...and the other end soon popped out his mouth! i love immature humour sometimes!!!

juggling seemed to the theme this year...

audience assistance...the performers always seem to have a knack for picking good sports...

fire guy's grand finale! thru the star of fire on his skate board!

 So, Fire Guy wins the star award, and we thoroughly enjoyed this performance. An excellent summer’s eve outing!

Until next year!

A Social Whirlwind!

Today has been a social blast from start to finish!

Here’s a recap:

Unfortunately, Grandma

is in the hospital. :(

Now I’m not THAT obsessive with the blog that I felt comfortable taking photos of the poor dear, propped up in her hospital bed, so I’ll just tell you how my visit played out. Happily, the hospital is within easy walking distance of our condo. To be honest, I was rather dreading the visit this morning – hospitals give me the willies. Actually, it’s worse than that. They make me feel like I have a vicegrip squeezing my stomache. But sometimes in life you just gotta suck it up. And I knew that a) I wouldn’t be staying all that long, and b) Grandma would appreciate the diversion.

And you know what? We enjoyed a genuinely wonderful visit together. Grandma is in quite a bit of pain (legs, lower back) but her mind is clear, despite heavy pain meds, and her spirit is positive. Sometimes I worry, too, that I’ll run out of conversation with these types of visits, but today that was sure not the case. We chittered and chattered the full duration of my visit. I then left her in the company of her cousin who arrived to visit. I’ll add that the hospital atmosphere was a lot more pleasant than I anticipated, too. Hospitals are pretty stark environments, but at least GRH was clean and quiet today.

Early this afternoon, I had an appointment with my chiropractor, Adam. I know Adam from the clinic talks he gives at the store from time to time, so it was great to chat and hear about his triathlon race this past weekend, and just have a lovely gabfest while I got some ART done on my tight adductor/hamstring.

From there, it was on to my most eagerly anticipated social event of the day! A visit to see a new baby!

meet Baby Matias!

Baby Matias is the one-month old son of my second cousin, Heidi, and her husband Jim.

heidi and baby m!

What a snuggly little armful he is!

not interested in the camera - let me sleep, says baby!

Since Jim is Asian, Matias has the most beautiful blend of Asian and Caucasian features – of course, I could be a little biased! :)

Heidi and I had a delightful visit – she’s going to be a great mom. Happily, she has lots of supportive friends and family in town which is wonderful especially for a first-time parent.

Later this aft, I popped into the store to wish my friend Sarah bon voyage – she and her husband are off to Ireland tomorrow for a visit with Wes’ extended family, and some touring around. And I returned her DVD of “Rescue Me, Season One.” B and I finished the last episode last eve. We are so hooked! Great show. We have to get our hands on Season Two ASAP.

Lastly, BFF Debbie and I have enjoyed emails back and forth today, mostly regarding this article from the National Post (10 over-rated Canadian authors). Given that part of the Kiki Project involves books, and that I have read works by most of the authors mentioned, I loved this article! Apparently, the 10 most UNDER-rated authors will appear tomorrow – you may wish to check that out. I know I’m intrigued!

In regards to today’s over-rated list, I have read (or attempted to read) a work by everyone except John Raulston Saul and Erin Moure. Of the eight other names, I am in total agreement that there are way better Canadian authors out there who deserve their acclaim - Miriam Toews, David Gilmour, for example. I would only exempt Douglas Coupland from The List as I have read about 3-4 of his novels and quite enjoy his creative quirkiness. Check out The Gum Thief, if you need a recommendation. And I would read him again in the future.

What’s your opinion? Thoughts, anyone?!

And now, ’tis evening, and after catching up with B, I think I am all talked out for this day! Gotta get my rest as I am spending the next two days with my two favourite girls! There will be NO silent moments, I guarantee!

Buyer Be-Aware Monday: Et tu, Wolfgang Puck?

Happy Monday, everyone! (hoping that is not an oxymoronic expression for you today!)

If it’s Monday, it’s time for a Buyer Be-Aware segment. Let’s start off with a quickie quiz – 3 questions:

1. How much sodium does your body need? (mg per day)

a) zero b) 500 mg c) 1500 mg d) 2300 mg

2. How much sodium are Canadians currently consuming per day, in mg?

a) 1000 mg b) 3400 mg c) 5000 mg d) 10 000 mg

3) What is the recommended intake of sodium per day for adults?

a) zero mg b) 500 mg c) 1500 mg d) 2300 mg

ANSWERS: (It’s a personal pet peeve when you have to turn a paper upside down, turn to another page, or search high and low for quiz answers, so I will spare you the effort! Question #1 = b, Question #2 = b, Question #3 = d)

(all stats come from this source)

Let’s get on with the meat and potatoes (a potentially salty meal!) of this post: SODIUM CONTENT IN TINNED SOUPS.

A can of soup is such a great concept, in theory. What is faster, cheaper, easier to prepare and eat, offers more choice in flavours than a tin of soup? Soups can be a quick lunch for the office, a warming meal on a cold night, a picker-upper when you’re sick, a secret-ingredient base for yummy desserts.

Another pop quiz – name a company that manufactures tinned soups. What popped to your mind? This giant?

CAMPBELLS!!!

That’s what my mind thinks of, anyway!

The idea for today’s post came when I was poking about the Amy’s Organic products at a local health food store. Thought I might try some sort of vegetarian soup for lunch:

a wide selection of offerings for a veggie lover!

…then I happened to glance at the sodium content of this one…

yum - minestrone!

The stats on our friend Amy? This one rings in at 580 mg per 250 ml/1 cup serving. Since the tin is 398 ml, if you eat the tin as your lunch (entirely possible), you’re consuming 923 mg sodium! I put poor Amy back on the shelf. (Many thanks to my high school math for allowing me to use an algebraic formula for the computation, above!)

Intrigued now, I spent some time among the soups at Vincenzo‘s (neighbourhood specialty store). As a fan of the Food Network Channel, (watch Top Chef!!!) Wolfgang Puck  is a name I recognize and regard with awe!

not your average flavour selections!

Hey Hey!! If you’re going to “treat” yourself to canned soup, maybe a prestigious brandname is the one to go with!

lentils + vegetables = balanced vegetarian dish!

Well, Wolfgang, you come in with better stats than Amy, but I still passed you by. This puck-a-licious soup checked in with 490 mg sodium per 250 ml/1 cup. (SIDENOTE: notice the labelling info here - if you just glance at the sodium content, you may be led to believe that the sodium listed is for the entire tin…but ONE SERVING does not equal ONE TIN – be aware!) So if you open the tin and slurp it all up, you’re actually getting a 780 mg sodium bang for your buck.

So as not to just pick on Wolfgang and His Soups, I checked another offering on the Vincenzo’s shelf:

a shelf of soups, lined with all the labels facing forwards, is so pleasing to my love of order! :)

I know nothing about Baxters, have nothing against Baxters, just call me Switzerland when it comes to Baxters. Would I buy a Baxters? Bet your bootie, no! This one sounds good…

squash! great source of vitamins and nutrients!

Wowser! Would you like a whopping serving of sodium to go with this nutritious veg? How about 730 mg per 250 ml/1 cup serving? This tin, the largest of our sampling thus far, is 540 ml. So eat the tin (less likely, I realize, as it’s over two cups, but if you’re hungry or simply don’t want leftovers, entirely possible), and you’ll get…1576 mg sodium!!

I couldn’t wait to go pick on Campbells!!! It felt like such an easy target, as I guessed that the sodium content would be highest with this King of the Canned Soups. I made a beeline for the soup aisle…

let me turn those labels around (rubs hands in expectant glee!)

And? And?!…Here you go: Campbells Cheddar Cheese clocks in at 870 mg per 250 ml/1cup while Vegetable rings in with 650 mg per 250 ml/1 cup. It’s so fun to be right (pats self on back)!! If we look at all of the examples, above, the Campbells Cheddar Cheese *wins* the prize for most salt per serving.

As always, I want only to draw these stats to your attention. Just because a soup is organic, vegetarian or high falutin does not mean it is “better” than the run-of-the-mill offering. For sure, there is a time and a place for a tin of soup. Just BE AWARE and balance the rest of your meals accordingly.

Final stats: price. (This could be a good Price is Right game! “Put the soups in order of price and win a Pontiac!”) Care to guess the price points?? Remember: we’ve looked at Amy’s, Wolfgang Puck, Baxters, and Campbells….(thinking, thinking…)

Here you go: Wolfgang Puck = $3.99; Amy’s = $3.65 Baxters = $2.99, Campbells = $2.19 (cheddar) and $0.59 (vegetable on sale).

So to end on a positive note, think about whipping up your own pot o’ soup! Not hard! Not expensive! I leave you with a link to this website where you’ll find a few soups to sup on! Bon appetit!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For me, Mondays feel like Fridays. Working retail, my schedule of late has been Friday, Saturday (not this past week when we had Baby C’s party), Sunday and Monday. So Tuesday is my Saturday! I’m looking forward to quite a social day tomorrow!

Big C, little c, what begins with C?!

Cutie Claire Celebrates Comfortably,

C, C, C. *

it's my party and i'll NOT smile if i want to!

(*can you tell that Little E and I spent some time with Dr Seuss this past week!…)

Yes, Baby C is now a one year old! To commemorate her birthday, SIL Ana organized a family outing to Toronto Island today. I adore this place! Where else can you find rides and attractions, the beach, playgrounds and picnic tables, all balanced against peaceful and scenic paved trails and tons of quiet green space? AFTER a ferry ride, no less! Personally, I was delighted with this choice of venue – I LUUUUV Centre Island! My first visit was with SIL Ana, My Brother, Little E and Baby C a year ago, and I couldn’t wait to go back.

The outing was a bit touch n go until yesterday, due to conflicting weather reports which indicated heat/clouds/humidity/rain. In the end, thanks to The Doctor…

...or do you prefer tyrone???!

it was decided the party would go as planned, and we would chance the conditions.

Good call! We took the 9:50 a.m. ferry straight across to Centre Island.

little e, aunti and uncle b observed from the second floor - no luck spotting fish, whales or dolphins!...

beautiful birthday party braids!

We then made our way to the picnic tables to set up shop.

what's better than a cooler bag ride?!

wheeeee!!!! hold on to that handle, little e!

Given the choice of the beach, the playground or the splash pad, Little E chose to kick off the fun times at the splashpad (shades of aunti at that age! matters not that we had neither sun nor heat at this time)!

run run run!!!

Little E easily coerced Uncle B into getting wet…

good sport, uncle b!

…but preferred just checking out the site to crashing through the water herself!

the water's fine from back here, thanks!

The other guests soon joined in: G’ma and G’pa; Aunt Kimmy and Uncle Steve, then Aunt Cathy and Uncle Edgar arrived.

SIL ana, the birthday girl, aunt kimmy, uncle steve...

aunt cathy and uncle edgar!

(sorry, G’ma and G’pa! how’d I miss a photo of you both?!)
Before lunch, we had time to hit the beach…a little cool for swimming, but perfect for playing make-believe ice cream shop!

may i take your order?!

this time aunti was the waitress...strawberry ice cream and a banana split, please!

Lunchtime!

the spread...

We enjoyed a wonderful collection of yums, with contributions from everyone…

perfect picnic potluck choices...

My favourite today? Aunt Kimmy’s antojitos. Kimmy made Christine Cushing’s recipe, and they were delicious! Kimmy’s looked even better as she wrapped them more tightly. Baby C obviously agreed as she chowed down a full 2 and 3/4 antojitos!
Much mingling, chatter and banter ensued…

menfolk...

sisterfolk...

...and babyfolk!

Consuming the creative cake concluded our celebration!

cute or what!

SIL Ana’s cake-making mastery took centre stage for dessert!

"it's my cake! i should be able to divvy out the pieces, no?!"

happy birthday to YOU, baby c!

To conclude, a couple of casual family shots:

baby c's daddy's family members...

baby c's mommy's family members (just missing the grandparents today only!)

Ominous clouds started gathering in the distance, so we cleaned up, bid farewell to G’ma and G’pa who took the Centre Island ferry, to Cathy and Edgar who were staying awhile,  then the rest of the clan made our way to the Ward’s Island ferry for the return trip.

love the view of TO from the island

Many thanks to SIL Ana and My Brother for organizing today’s festivities. Count me in for a TO Island visit any time!
The birthday girl? She was in great spirits all day, content and comfortable, crawling and craving walking attempts with various caregivers. Then it was time to crash:

zonked!

Would you believe we LITERALLY just got back to our cars and the rain started to sprinkle. By the time we hit the Gardiner, it was a full-fledged downpour! Thanks to the Man Upstairs for commendably co-ordinating a clear (if cool) day when it was most needed!
A baby’s first year of life is chock-full of constant developments. It’s been so exciting to see Baby C’s thrive and grow this year; here’s to many more moments of joy!

Mon amie, Lisa!

I’d like you to meet my dear friend Lisa:

lisa is as friendly in person as she looks via camera!

Would you believe that Lisa and I first met (and thus began our friendship) in a job interview setting?! It’s true! Go wayyy back to the summer of 1993. I was a co-op university student, then, interviewing for a student teacher placement for September, and Lisa interviewed me for the job at her school. You know how you just *click* with some people? Such was the case for Lisa and me. As Lisa tells it, she knew that we students all had the same academic qualifications. So if she was going to spend four months mentoring someone, she would choose the person she would want as a friend and colleague! :)

Lisa and I did pass four delightful months together, from September to Christmas Holidays, teaching Grade 9 French. I learned so much about teaching and classroom management from Lisa, but best of all was the solid friendship we developed. We fondly reminisce to this day about some of the cute kids we taught…and about some of the…more delinquent types (no lie).

Lisa and I get together every summer (although we missed last summer, somehow) and we never skip a beat in diving right in to happy chatter and frequent laughs. Lisa is full of energy and vitality; she tells a good story, and is genuine and caring. She also is an ace at mimicking accents! Lisa and her husband have three children, and she continues to teach high school French. We still share similar interests: shopping, sunbathing (we both now use SPF!), travelling, family time…it’s thanks to Lisa that I keep up on current teaching trends and curriculum guidelines nowadays. I always say the only way you’d get me back in a classroom is if Lisa was my co-teacher and we could recreate those classroom days of 1993.

So this morning’s visit at my place passed all too quickly. I’m going to make a priority item out of setting a coffee date with Lisa for this fall. Get-togethers with good friends are just good for the soul!

cheers!

**************

Pop back to yesterday’s post now…did you guess where I will be headed in March 2011?! Yup, ARUBA, baby! Unfortunately, B will not be able to get away from school at that time, but I can’t pass up the opportunity for another travelling adventure!

Eat, Pray, Loved It!

There’s nothing better than fun social outings in the summer. When I look back on the Summer of 2010, I will remember the huge number of movie outings I have enjoyed! Honestly, I believe I have set a new record in trips to the movie theatres: on my own, with B, with friends…it’s been fun to see a variety of films, and of course, rate them and add them to the Kiki Collection of 40 Movie Reviews!

Last night, was Eat Pray Love night. You can check out my film review here. I knew just the outfit to wear: my capri tights that I picked up in Florida:

what's better than love/peace/happiness theme-d tights for eat pray love viewing?!

excited for girls' night at the movies!

Met up with BFF Debbie and her friend Dawna at the cinema. I had never met Dawna before, but we both felt like we knew each other thanks to our friendship with Debbie.

dawna, debbie, me, outside the cinema

No lack of conversation at all as we waited for the movie to start.

And Julia Roberts did not disappoint in her starring role:

have been a fan of Julia Roberts ever since "Pretty Woman" - can't believe that was released in 1990!

The only problem with movie outings is you can’t visit through the movie! Happily, Debbie and I have plans for next week (stay tuned on that one!) and I do hope to meet up with Dawna again, too.

**********************

In other news…booking a ticket for a 2011 SOLO TRAVEL ADVENTURE! Will share the details tomorrow…only hint for you is courtesy of the Beach Boys…

“__ __ __ __ __, Jamaica, ooo i wanna take ya,

Bermuda, Bahamas come on pretty mama…”

:)

Buyer Be-Aware Monday: Toning Shoes

Remember these?!

an example of "minimalist footwear," for sure!

Update: I’m still easing my way into wearing the Vibram Sprints, and so far so good! I can assure you that you DO feel as if you are barefoot: there is absolutely nuttin’ in terms of cushioning between you and the sidewalk (the only surface I’ve worn them on so far)! Since I’ve been wearing my Vibrams and my Nike Frees 99% of the time when I go walking/am out and about, a “regular” pair of running shoes now feels…excessive! As previously discussed, these shoes are not for everyone, but I am transitioning without issue!

The Vibrams aren’t the only shoe phenomenon popular right now. Have you seen any of these?

(source)

The Sketchers Shape Ups - perhaps the most widely-known of the brands…they certainly advertise prominently.

Or how about…

Chapa Storm GTX (source)

The MBT Anti-Shoe…

Or even…

Post Icon(source)

The Reebok Easy Tone Go-Outside model

These are all examples of what the shoe industry classifies as “toning shoes.” What do they have in common? (besides being butt-ugly!) – this type of shoe is supposed to tone your glute and leg muscles while you walk. If you raise an eyebrow skeptically, I am with you.

My store carries a version as well:

this is the avia avi-motion shoe

…and here’s what our website says about this shoe:

Avia – AVI-Motion Walking i-Quest

Women’s

Introducing AVIA’s latest recovery footwear. The iquest makes downtime activity a powerful way of enhancing run training for both the recreational and competitive runner. AVIA’s breakthrough recovery collection uses a variety of advanced features including the Double Rocker midsole that mimics sand-like walking. This promotes muscle activation to the lower extremities.

 (source)

In the interest of today’s post, I wore these shoes for my three hour shift today.

look like orthopedic grandma shoes...

 Granted, walking around the store is not the same as using them for a power walk, but I figured a couple of hours wear would give me a sense of the shoe.

the heel-to-toe roll is more pronounced than this photo indicates...

The shoe really rolls – you feel like you have the bottoms of a rocking chair on your feet. I did feel taller. When I stood still, my centre of gravity shifted towards the last 2/3 of the shoe. When standing or walking, you need to make a concerted effort to toe-off (all part of the muscle-toning action, I guess). They were NOT uncomfortable. However, I really didn’t feel the urge to try them on a real walk due to the both heaviness of the shoe and that rolling motion (not to mention the quite hideous appearance).

Contrary to what the box states…

can a shoe effectively tone your abs, thighs, calves and glutes??

…I personally did not feel like my muscles were working harder or being conditioned in a new way.

My opinion? Rather than trying to combine walking + lower body muscle strengthening at the same time, keep the activities separate: go for a heart-pumping walk in your regular workout/running shoes THEN add on supplementary strength and conditioning moves to target the glutes, abs, and legs. A bit of extra time, perhaps, but more effective in the long run.

The red-flag scenario would be someone who is new to fitness who reads the advertising and marketing claims, buys the shoes, and wears them for several hours the first time out. I bet this would not lead to happy muscles…just my educated guess!

Toning shoes are big business, though: last year they were worth $1.5 BILLION in sales and the projection this year is for over $2 billion. And all those claims of greatness you see on the various companies’ websites? Independent verification (ie from a neutral source, not from surveys or tests done by a company hired by the shoe manufacturer) have yet to prove them extraordinarily beneficial.

My conclusion? Invest in quality running or walking shoes, walk regularly and purposefully for your cardio fitness, then incorporate 15-30 minutes 2-3  per week of lower body conditioning moves.

*******************

In other news!…

B just got back last evening from the Colorado Hike! And while he could not find my peanut butter (boo hoo!), he did have good luck with my gum!

he even snagged some flavours i didn't try in florida!

I should be well-stocked now for a while!

So Much For That

How precise are your Wheel of Fortune skills?! If you pieced together the clue in yesterday’s post that W __ __ __ __    F __ __ __ __ stood for Whole Foods – you win! <3 (a kiss is all I can afford after my trip, sorry!)

I awoke to beeeauuutiful sunshine this morning, and decided YES! I am going to head down to Oakville for the day. I had three stops in mind: walk around downtown Oakville and the waterfront; enjoy lunch at Whole Foods, and leave with a bunch of goodies; check out Oakville Place mall. And, of course, come home and tell you all about it.

Well. The traffic gods thought otherwise:

10 minutes from home, not even at the 401, i met up with this scene...

...which only led to this long-range forecast...

...which only made me feel like this...

I finally got to the 401 and saw this gnarly sight:

so not only was my exit backed up, but the 401 was, too...

 I tried to deduce what was causing the problem: accident? (no flashing lights in sight); construction? (I had already passed the zone); Elvis sighting? (at this point, anything was possible). Then, a clue:

how banal

 Finally, the mystery is solved:

yup - ONE lane closed and look at the havoc created...

 At this point, I had been in the car almost an hour, and had gone what usually takes 12 minutes (literally). I decided I just didn’t feel like continuing on with another hour’s drive when I really didn’t have to. So I got off at the first exit and came home. Too bad – I had really done my homework and prepped my directions:

this system served me well in florida! google-maps translated to kikispeak!

But I wasn’t about to let THIS slight setback deter me from having a GREAT day! No sirr-ee, Bob!

you can't get grumpy on a day like this!

I quickly formulated an alternate plot:

~exploration of downtown Oakville? Easily replaced by tour around my nearby Old Westmount neighbourhood.

~Whole Foods lunch? Zip-pow! I’d pull together my own knock-out meal!

~shopping? Hello! I LIVE in a delightful shopping zone!

So with the sun in the sky and a spring in my step, I set out on my walking tour.

“Old Westmount is a wonderful area in Kitchener featuring beautiful older homes, gas lamp street lights, mature landscaping and the exclusive Westmount golf course. Old Westmount is within minutes from the quaint Belmont Village stores offering shoppers a variety of unique shops.” (source)

I started off through a section that is compromised of modest homes, but where pride of ownership is evident on most properties:

a gracious setting

 The insurance company grounds are always immaculately cared for!

i'd eat lunch by the fountain if i worked here!

Some homes have been torn down and replaced over the last few years:

BFF debbie and i have gushed over this remake for a few years, now

…and the infill projects continue! I saw at least 5-6 completely gutted sites today. One example:

what will the final design be?!

In one way, it’s unfortunate to lose the original home; however, I would rather see a new home built on an existing lot than in a new suburb out in the boonies (that’s a rant/tangent for another day!).

Passed by some old favourites:

the "white house" of westmount??!

…and the Westmount Golf & Country Club:

"membership has its priviledges"

I headed onto the posh-est street in the entire ‘hood…

these owners always put up a several-stories-tall xmas tree in this window; debbie and i make a point of viewing it (from the outside!) every year

their view out the front door? the aforementioned golf course - not bad, eh.

when built, this modern home must have made an extreme statement; full windows on the other side face the golf course

IMMEDIATELY after I snapped this photo, I had the answer as to why I didn’t make it to Oakville today…

A young  gentleman, working with a lawn care service adjacent to the home, above, approached me. “Excuse me, but you look really familiar,” he said. He did, too, but I had no idea from where… Just as he was about to say his name, *SNAP!* I recognized him as a former student. I think we both said “Josh!” simultaneously.

Well. We chatted a full 20 minutes. The real kicker? In my three years of teaching, I would have to say that Josh was one of the most challenging students I ever taught – top three, for sure. Diagnosed with ADHD, son to a single mom, not interested in school in the least…he presented me with behavioural issues pretty much every day. But today? It was genuinely heart-warming to catch up with him. Now 29, he has a 7 year old daughter, and has worked for the lawn care service for 10 years. He left high school after Grade 9 (the year I taught him), and Josh told me he got into drugs (sadly, no surprise) but the birth of his daughter was the kick-in-the-butt he needed to turn his life around. He shared a lot of his life since high school with me today, actually. One comment: “the only class I did well in was Grade 9 French.” (um, that would be my class…) That’s how he remembers it???! Well. I hope the shock I was feeling did not register in my face! This chance encounter also made me recall my short teaching career – looking back, I really feel for kids for whom desklearning is just not their style; I also feel for the newbie teacher/me who was trying desperately to impart French verb conjugations to active learners. So nice that both the former student and teacher have matured and moved on!

I share this rather long saga just to say that I am really touched that Josh made the effort to chat, has turned his life around, has set goals for the future, and spoke so warmly. It really made my day. I set off again with a lightness of heart!

Now back to the tour!…

My return trip took me past stately homes…

the architecture! the windows! the lawn!

…and quaint cottage-type abodes as I headed into Belmont Village:

so cute! like a life-sized dollhouse!

I feel like I really did stop and smell the flowers on my walk today.

one of many delightful displays I passed!

Next, I scooted around to pull together my Whole Foods Replacement Lunch. I stopped here:

as close to the whole foods concept as we can get, locally

…here:

organic health food store

here:

...offering vegetarian and vegan lunches and treats...

look at the choices! Dad!!! - - - tarts!!! :)

(If you’re local, I highly recommend you check out Seven Shores – support the independent!)

And finally I stopped here:

a daily occurence

I was super-excited when my lunch was ready!

yum!!

So while I missed out on the Whole Foods hot and cold buffets, I instead delighted in: salad greenery topped with pan-seared tofu, cherry tomatoes, Nutritional Yeast, Chia seeds, Flax seeds, and salad dressing; half a sweet and fresh honeydew melon; a vegan chocolate chip cookie. No. Disappointment. Whatsoever.

I next spent a delightful hour up on our rooftop patio:

the view

my spot

latest knitting project: this is a doozy of a lace challenge!

"life is good" :)

And here’s your daily chuckle:

it's, like 30 degrees out! and you're trying to tempt with hot beef?!! good luck with that!!!!

Now could I please have about 10 more hours in my day?! Options for tonight include: A) Chapters; B) play with the blog some more; C) knit and watch another Mad Men episode on PVR; D) download new iTunes…all are F.U.N.!!!

Hope you had a wonderful day, too! I saw a great decal on the window of a Tacoma pickup yesterday: “NO BAD DAYS” – what a motto to remember! And today certainly was a GOOD DAY.

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